How important is the peak season for an eCommerce business? According to the National Retail Federation, small to medium-sized businesses now take up to 40% of their annual sales during their peak seasons. Most of these sales happen online. In eCommerce, you need to do as much as you can to maximize your sales during your peak selling season. Peak Season 2021 is shaping up to be a record year, so let’s make sure you’re ready!
What is peak season?
What is peak season? It’s usually the time between October and Last Collection Day, or the last day customers can place orders for Christmas delivery. However, depending on your key sales dates, it could be a different time of year.
How can you set your business up for success during peak season? We’ve got a few tips to make sure you’re ready to maximize your sales during your peak selling season. You can also check out our Peak Season 2021 Prep Checklist to cover all your bases! Let’s jump in.
Did you know the majority of online retailers begin planning for peak season at least four to six months in advance? Don’t panic if you haven’t started yet, there’s still plenty of time to get ready! After 2019’s boom in eCommerce, its online retailers have seen even more traffic during the holidays, so be prepared for your busiest season.
What worked last year?
One of the easiest things you can do is analyze your peak season from last year. I’m sure you learned plenty! What worked? What didn’t? This list could be huge or small – but pick your top 3 to work on as you prep for peak season. Don’t get bogged down by EVERYTHING you feel like you need to change, tailor your list to what you have the time and resources for.
If you’re new to eCommerce and this is your first peak season, use this checklist to prepare for your very first peak season as best you can. Make notes if you can of things you could improve or do differently for next year.
Check your inventory
If you sell manufactured products or hold an inventory of items, make sure you have enough items to get through peak season. Be realistic, and try to be as accurate with your numbers as you can. This way you will not have too little product or too much at the end of peak season.
Remember to factor in things like delivery time for your products to you and manufacturing time. You don’t want to order a product on October 1 that takes 6 weeks to make and 4 weeks to ship to you – it may be too late for Christmas delivery by the time you get it! Make sure you check into options like drop shipping the product from the manufacturer, it may cut down on transit time to get products to your customers.
There’s no “one size fits all” formula
Remember: There is no “one size fits all” formula for your business in peak season, just best practices! The more you sell, the more you will know what works for you and your business.
Optimize your website
For today’s online consumers, customer experience is what sets many retailers apart. Keep a few things in mind to make sure your customers have the best experience shopping with your business.
Be the buyer
Pretend you’re a buyer on your website. Navigate through everything from your home page through checkout. Was it smooth and easy to understand? Did you have some hang-ups on the way? Was your experience the same on a desktop, tablet, or mobile device? Mobile optimization is a great way to encourage customers to make more purchases. Make sure each step in your buyer’s journey is as easy as possible.
Another way to optimize your website for more sales is personalization! 80% of customers now are more likely to purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences. What do we mean by personalization? Homepages are based on a customer’s location, for example. Or, display recently viewed items!
Whatever you do – DO NOT plan any upgrades or platform changes from September to December. You don’t want to increase your stress OR discourage customers during your busiest season of the year!
Remember when we said customer experience is what makes a company stand out in a crowd? That includes your customer service too! How can you make your customer service an effortless part of your peak season process? Think about the speed and accuracy of your customer service requests. Do you answer customers promptly? Do you have a way to track their requests to make sure you’ve answered them?
Think Live Chat
A great way to offer direct engagement to your customers (both prospective and returning!) is a live chat on your website. You can link it to Facebook messenger, Instagram messenger, and a variety of other platforms depending on what you are using. You can set up certain chatbot features to go off keywords, and even suggest resources like a detailed FAQ page to include answers to customers’ frequently asked questions.
Encourage Repeat Customers
Don’t forget to creatively incentivize repeat customers! Can you offer a discount or value-added content after their purchase? The great thing about this idea is that you can completely automate it to run after a purchase! This is a great way to delight customers you already have with very little effort on your part.
Do you need extra help?
When you go back and look at last year’s peak season, if one of the areas you struggled with was customer service, you may need to look into hiring extra help this peak season to lighten your load. There are a variety of options available for extra help, especially in customer service! You could hire someone to come to your business or even a virtual assistant just for peak season! Whichever you chose, make sure they are well versed in how your company talks to customers, or your company’s tone and voice.
Successful shipping for your business will look like multiple shipping options (think express, economy, and multiple courier options!), securely packed products, validated addresses, clear customer communication, and smooth delivery.
How do you make sure all of this happens during peak season?
First, make sure you have chosen the right shipping partners for your business. If your customers like quick shipping times and full tracking, you need a courier or service that can handle that, not a postal option that takes a while! However, if your customers value cheaper shipping and don’t mind a longer wait, postal may be the option for you!
Make sure you have enough supplies to get you through your peak season shipping. If you’re shipping packages in cute boxes with red tissue paper, you don’t want to run out of that tissue paper halfway through November! As with your inventory, try to make sure your shipping supplies are stocked accordingly.
Streamline your process
How can you streamline your process? While having enough supplies to get through peak season helps, knowing how long it takes you to package each item for shipping, as well as how long it takes to process shipping labels for each package will help you plan your time. Create a checklist for each product or package type to ensure you put the right things in the right place each time.
A time-saving strategy for shipping is to set clear expectations with returns, shipping policies and times, and the shipping cut-off for holiday delivery. Make sure your policies are clearly worded and available to your customers when they checkout. Many times, a clear shipping policy or return policy will take care of several questions. Don’t forget to tell your customers your shipping cut-off for holiday delivery! This is a great piece of information to share on social media or with your email list as well!
Take the time to think about how you will address delivery delays or other shipping issues. This may fall under the same area as extra help for customer service, so make sure you have time to do everything you need to or hire the extra help you need as well.
When it comes to peak season advertising, think about the story you are sharing for your business! Remember, you’re going to be reaching people that have no idea who you are, as well as repeat customers. You can create different campaigns around each holiday like Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.
Consider which social media or advertising platforms perform the best for you in regards to customer engagement, and focus on them! They will be the place to start for adding content and getting the word out about your peak season promotions.
A great way to build buzz and anticipation ahead of your holiday promotions will be to add interactive content like games, quizzes, an advent calendar of discounts, or a 12 Days of Christmas count down all season long to keep customers and prospective customers engaged.
Feeling a little lost? Hubspot has a great post on seasonal marketing, check it out for some quick ideas.
Don’t forget, your job isn’t over once peak season ends! Once you’re done with the push for peak season in 2021, sit back and analyze how it all went. What went well? What needs improvement?
Don’t forget to look at every area affected by peak season: your website, customer service, shipping, and marketing efforts.
Don’t forget to take notes! These notes will help you get ready for next season, and keep improving your business to take care of both you and your customers.
Director of Marketing & Media
Kristin loves coffee and reading, in that order! She drinks the coffee and makes the things for eGlobalUSA.